BEIJING: Sport and exercise are taking off in China, driven by a combination of health and social factors, and opening up new opportunities for brands to connect with consumers.

Writing for WARC, Chris Maier, managing director of analytics, research & insight at Publicis Media Greater China, observes that sport not only has become a way of maintaining a positive spirit and longevity, but also a way of showing off and signalling success to peers.

People are looking beyond traditional sports like badminton and table-tennis and embracing a whole range of new activities from climbing to fishing. (For more details, read Maier’s article in full: Leveraging sports marketing for brands in China: Key steps for consideration.)

“Brands can look to leverage opportunities in these spaces – especially where no other brands occupy – catering and curating relevant experiences to strengthen associations,” Maier says.

He notes that sports apparel dominates sponsorship awareness (62% against all categories), with closer associated categories such as beverages (8%) and automotive (8%) and alcohol (2%) falling a distance behind.

“This suggests brands are under-investing or are failing to cut through to consumers consistently enough,” he says.

There are also opportunities for “non-endemic brands” to build associations with sport, Maier adds, and these will have to consider carefully how best to authentically link the brand in the particular sporting context.

Given that the elevation of personal well-being and status is a key driver of sporting take-up, brands need to think through selection and leveraging of athletes that cater to this.

“Ensure, as a brand, [you] focus on and highlight key areas to personal benefit when associating with specific sports,” Maier recommends.

His general theme is echoed in a recent South China Morning Post article which argued that fitness is the new luxury.

This also noted how a Western apparel brand, Lululemon, emphasises functionality and how its products improve performance, while a local brand like Maia Active markets its products aesthetically, explaining how they are specially designed for Asian bodies and will make the user look good.

Sourced from WARC, South China Morning Post